Tax Planning, Avoiadance & Evasion in Tanzania
Otherwise the tax authorities would have pre-emptied any tax evasion and avoidance practices. A high degree of tax avoidance and evasion may result into serious Government revenue shortfalls leading into non-realization of government and economic and social development programmes, and bring inequality.
Similarly, there is no law that prevents anyone from changing his business organization from a sole proprietorship into a partnership or limited liability company. Whereas tax consideration may influence the change in the form of business organization, there may be other good reasons to justify the change such as the need to raise more capital for business expansion or attract necessary skills etc. It may also constitute legitimate tax planning where assets are leased instead of ownership because the higher lease rent is allowable over a shorter period instead of the smaller amount of depreciation allowance claims over a longer period of time. In all these cases there is no contravention of any law. The taxpayer merely looks at the existing legal framework to structure his business transactions to realize the maximum tax savings.
Tax Evasion: Tax evasion on the other hand involves a taxpayer's deliberate contravention of the tax law(s) in order to minimize or eliminate tax liability altogether (pay no or little tax respectively by breaking the law). Tax evasion is the application of fraudulent practices in order to minimize or eliminate tax liability.
- Making a false return of income by omitting or understating income or overstating expenses.
- Making a false statement in a return affecting tax liability.
- Giving false information on any matter affecting tax liability.
- Preparation or maintenance of false books of accounts or records.
- Application of fraud e.g. manipulation of stock sheets and valuation, destruction of or defacing of accounting records, non-issue of sales receipts etc.
Where such acts are made with intent to evade tax or assist another person to evade tax it constitutes fraud or gross neglect, which is heavily punishable by law.
Causes of Tax Avoidance and Evasion: Any attempt to avoid or evade tax may be caused by any one or combination of the following factors: -
- High marginal tax rates and frequent changes in tax rates such as ales tax and import duty, withholding tax etc. because taxpayers may consider distribution of their incomes unfair and may attempt to make a unilateral adjustment for equity by non-compliance through tax evasion.
- Administrative inefficiency, collusion with taxpayers and bribery of tax officials. Financial constraints, inadequate working tools and lack of staff motivation do not encourage tax compliance. Income may go untaxed and tax collection is delayed for various reasons.
- Inadequate training and experience of tax administrators coupled with lack of exposure to business practices may limit tax officials' ability to expose complex international and intercom any tax avoidance schemes and check on stock manipulations or proper accounting in long term contracts.
- Too many taxes (multiplicity of taxes) are difficult to comply with correctly due to lack of knowledge of the detailed provisions of all the tax laws, too many due dates and too much return to complete, accounting staff shortages and different complexities in the laws etc. There are more than 30 tax laws in Tanzania. There is a need to rationalize the tax regime further.
- Low prospect of detection and punishment of tax evaders. The more tax evaders a person know who are not caught and punished, the more likely he will also join the band wagon of tax evaders (induced evasion). Where tax evaders are caught the penalty should be sufficiently deterrent. That is why a selective prosecution policy is necessary. However w.e.f.1/7/1997 the penalties for non-compliance appear too harsh and arbitrarily enforced.
- Deficiencies in the legal structure of the tax laws (poor draftsmanship) and complexity allow tax avoidance.
- Traditional and cultural tendency to hate and evade taxes (low tax morality): In Tanzania tax evasion seems to generate some sense of cheap heroism to the evaders. The practice is generally not seen by the society as a stigma.
- The wasteful manner in which the Government departments spend the revenue and lack of clear benefits to taxpayers through improved social services has some negative influence on tax compliance.
Effects (consequences) of Tax Avoidance and evasion: Although the concepts of tax avoidance and tax evasion are different, the purpose and net effect of these concepts are exactly the same i.e. the reduction or elimination of tax liability resulting into:
- Government revenue loss leading to non-realization of budget plans and objectives for economic and social development;
- Non-realization of other non-revenue goals of taxation e.g. inequality in taxation, as some law abiding citizens or those with no opportunity to evade tax such as employees, bear a disproportional heavier tax burden than others;
- Alternative sources of government revenue such as the running of government budget deficits is inflationary and foreign loans/grants dependency causes heavy foreign debt burden (loan repayment with interest drains foreign reserves) and may be politically undesirable.